"I guess you would say chasing Tyson started a long time ago, and it wasn't so much of me chasing Mike Tyson, but I was told at 8 years old that I could be the heavyweight champion of the world, so I was chasing whoever the champion was at the time and it just so happened was Mike Tyson," stated all-time great former undisputed heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, who opened up about his new documentary, "Chasing Tyson", their infamous "bite fight", and much more. Check it out!
PC: First and foremost, what a great documentary "Chasing Tyson" was. How did it come together?
EH: Well, for me, the actual, I guess you would say chasing Tyson started a long time ago, and it wasn't so much of me chasing Mike Tyson, but I was told at 8 years old that I could be the heavyweight champion of the world, so I was chasing whoever the champion was at the time and it just so happened was Mike Tyson. I was the Boys Club champion when I was 9 years old, I won the Bronze Medal in the Olympics, and then the cruiserweight title in 1988, so after that, the only thing left for me to do was to win the heavyweight title of the world and I always wanted to fight the best fighters to win my belts. At that time, Mike Tyson was that guy.
PC: You felt you got the short end of the stick not because you couldn't fight, but because you didn't talk a lot. You weren't very vocal and the documentary somewhat showcases how no matter what you accomplished, Mike Tyson's name was brought up.
EH: People look at people and they say, "He is from the ghetto and this is an image that people can deal with." You know what? What else can a person do? If you have this type of lifetime like he had and people feed into, they think it's alright, but I think that the conflict between Mike and myself is I come from the ghetto just like Mike, but I didn't act like Mike, and a lot of people who were black thought that I was a goodie-too-shoe because I didn't clown like that. We all people, but we have different personalities. I wasn't brought up to do that. I was taught better. I was taught not to clown, not to curse or disrespect, and the main thing was to have respect for myself and my mother and any other adult. It's called respect. Because you can get away with it, do you say anything that pop up in your head? I was the one that was able to hold my tongue and keep my cool and I showed what I could do my whole life about not getting in trouble. I got in trouble a lot when I was a kid and I would get whoopings, but that was enough (laughing). I didn't have to be put in a cage.
PC: I don't know how you kept your cool after he bit you twice in the rematch and the documentary sheds a little bit of light on it. Have you ever gave a thought to what the aftermath would have been had you retaliated, and how were you able to keep it together?
EH: I was happy with the outcome of the fight and how it ended. I truly believe with Mike and myself, if I would have did what I wanted to and bite him up like he did me, I felt that the game of boxing would have had to stop because they would have said, "What's going to happen when two people get so bitter and so mad. What are they going to do? They are already fighting, so they could do something that bad because it's a bad situation." That could have led to something greater if I would have started biting him. His guys would have ran in there and my guys would have ran in there and a lot of people would have been hurt. Everybody would feel like, "I ain't going to let you hurt my guy," and, "He shouldn't have bit him," "Well he didn't do it that bad." How bad do things get when people don't forgive? Sometimes people end up dying for that. You got people all over this world still dying for stuff that their ancestors have done.
PC: You seemed to me to be the first fighter to look past Mike's hard exterior and see him as just another man and another fighter. Was that because you guys grew up knowing each other as teenagers so you knew him a little better then most, or was it simply you not conforming to the myth that was Mike Tyson?
EH: My whole thing is, all my life as a kid, I grew up in church. I got a lot of whoopings just me being a boy. You act up and you're bad because you just want to do it yourself and your way. You don't feel that you can wait. So all of these things just happen and these things ain't just happen with Mike, but these things happened with Lennox Lewis as well. There were a lot of people that, when they got mad, they said what they wanted to say. And for one thing, I watched what I said and did because I didn't want my mother to swing and hit me because she was the only person I can't hit back. My momma watched television and my momma watched the interviews and all this, and people would tell her how well I handled myself and conducted myself. At the end of the day, they are still your parents and no matter how old you get, they want to hear people compliment their kids. It's like my son that plays football, every time he goes somewhere, people say, "Ah man, he's so nice and he's so respectful." That means a lot. That means that he is raised properly. They know there are a lot of other people out there who can run the ball just like he does and are good athletes, but you can't control their mouth. So the natural thing with parents is how your kids conduct themselves because that kind of tells you how long they are going to be there. The respect that you give people allows you to stay in a position for a long time. And I was just going to respect Mike as a man and as a fighter, but that's where it had to end because I had to fight this man.
PC: You said when you looked at him before the rematch, you could tell he didn't want to be there. You went as far as saying he had a "what am I doing here" look on his face. Could you elaborate on that?
EH: The thing is, I knew pretty much because I had heard people say, "Mike don't really like fighting Holyfield because he is a good guy and Mike feels like it's a challenge fighting Holyfield because Mike like to fight people who are going to flip back at him." This is something my momma told me a long time ago, "Don't give them no fuel to fight." If I tell you I'm going to whoop your behind and curse you out and you don't say nothing, then what's to happen? You passed up your chance to talk back and now you're going to prove that you can whoop my behind because you have a hard time fighting a guy that's going to fight you back. You really want to be a bully and jump on somebody or what? But when people don't give you the fuel to fight back, you get nervous. You have to fight somebody who ain't running off at the lip and you don't know what he gonna do because he ain't said he's gonna do nothing.
PC: Another thing I took away from the film, and Steven Cantor really did an amazing job, but one thing I took away was, even though you were always in tremendous shape, you lost your passion for fighting and you weren't motivated and it showed in the fight with Bobby Czyz, which you looked very old and average, and the first fight with Mike Tyson was right after that. It's almost like the timing couldn't have been more perfect for you to really dial in and get your hunger back.
EH: Yeah it did and it meant more and all that. Sometimes you can just fight and fight and you can try to make it interesting, but then it just feels like you're fighting and just fighting. And not just that, but at the same time, you're trying to make up your mind if you should just retire. I had made a lot of money, so you're not driven by what you have done anymore. When it came to Tyson, people don't even realize some of my own family members, when they got mad at me, would say, "What's going to happen when you fight Tyson?" In other words, they would be like, "You think you're a goodie-too-shoe and da-da-da-da!" The whole thing was, I had some ways that I didn't have to be broken from. I never did drugs or all this crazy stuff. I was never the type of person to take advantage of somebody. So everybody would look at how clean my record is and it was like they were envious and jealous. They should have been happy that I have a brother or nephew or whatever my relation was to them, they should have been happy I didn't go down that same route that they went down and saying, "He makes everything look good." But instead, they were like, "What's going to happen when you fight Tyson?" They always thought if I didn't curse or do the things that they did, they think that I thought I was better then them. I never said I was better than nobody because in God's eyesight saying is sin. Ain't none greater than the other and when you know that, you're not trying to compare yourself with nobody. You just trying to be the very best that you can be without tipping over. At some point in time, people feel like, if they didn't get punished for the things that they did, they feel ain't nothing wrong with this. And then they found out that it is because you reap what you sew.
PC: You made people understand that you don't have to be this mean, angry guy all of the time to be a bad, bad man and you could fight your butt off. It's a pleasure and honor as always speaking with you and I encourage everyone to watch "Chasing Tyson" tonight Tuesday, November 10th, on ESPN at 8pm EST time because it is worth every minute, even if you're not a boxing fan!
EH: I really appreciate it, man. You have a good evening.
Don't miss "Chasing Tyson," the next documentary from ESPN Films' Peabody and Emmy Award-winning 30 for 30 series, premiering on Tuesday, November 10, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.
[ Follow Percy Crawford on Twitter @MrLouis1ana ]